As their long-standing ANZUS treaty reaches its sixtieth birthday, Australia and America have decided to extend their co-operation into the virtual space.
According to Reuters, the decision was made in discussions between the two countries this week. The extension of the treaty would mean that a cyber-attack on either country would be considered an attack on both.
Exactly what this means in practice is less clear: practically every government with a connection to the Internet is subject to pretty much constant attack, and both Australia and America regularly accuse China and North Korea of playing host to many such attacks (China just as regularly denies any government involvement in Internet-borne attacks).
According to Reuters, it’s the first time any non-NATO defense pact has extended to the Internet. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta is quoted as saying “cyber is the battlefield of the future.”
Australia is also in the process of beefing up legislation applying to Internet security, with its much-criticized Cybercrime Amendment Bill working its way through the Parliamentary process. Australia’s Green Party is still seeking changes to the data retention and data destruction parts of the bill.
It’s possible that further statements about the “cyber” impacts of the treaty could be made in November, when President Obama is planning to visit Australia. ®